Here is Jessica Grose’s review of Alissa Nutting’s novel about a female predator extraordinaire Alissa Nutting’s ‘Tampa’ takes inspiration from true-crime stories of seductive teachers and their teen conquests to craft the tale of an all-American sociopath.
Female Predator Extraordinaire from Alissa Nutting
It’s a familiar narrative, both true crime and fictional: gorgeous, nubile female teacher beds barely pubescent male student. Most infamously in the real world, there was Mary Kay Letourneau, the angel-faced blonde from Washington state who first seduced her sixth-grade student Vili Fualaau when he was 12, had his babies, went to jail for several years for her transgressions, and ultimately married him when she got out of the clink. More recently another blonde beauty was dominating the headlines. Debra Lafave, a Florida teacher who had sex with her 14-year-old male student and was under house arrest for three years, has been described as looking like a Miss America contestant.
Susan Sarandon has played a foxy teacher who had sex with a teenage student in two different comedies.
Though these couplings are statutory rape, as a culture we don’t know what to do with this dynamic. We don’t look at it as a simple matter of sexual predation, the way we do when a male teacher or coach has sex with an underage student. It’s often treated as a punchline, so often that Susan Sarandon has played a foxy teacher who had sex with a teenage student in two different comedies (on 30 Rock and in the Adam Sandler movie That’s My Boy). Which is part of why Alissa Nutting’s new novel, Tampa—inspired by Lafave’s story—feels so fresh. Instead of treating the female-teacher-male-student sexual dynamic as a joke, or a Van Halen–soundtrack fantasy, it paints the female teacher as a sociopath and the teenage boys she has sex with as irrevocably damaged by their interactions with her.
read the entire review